Are you ready for the simplest fancy recipe you’ve ever made?
Meet the Cacio e Pepe Pasta from Rose’s Luxury in DC.
In case you haven’t heard of Rose’s Luxury, it was named the best new restaurant in the country in 2014 by Bon Appétit. So I’d say it’s pretty darn good.
We went to Rose’s for the first time last December for my birthday and stood in line in the freezing cold for an hour, waiting for them to open. They don’t take reservations and had just made the best new restaurant list, so we were not the only fools twiddling our gloved thumbs on the sidewalk.
When we finally made it in in, we ordered just about everything, but as usual, my favorite thing was the simplest thing. It was this Cacio e Pepe Pasta.
It’s a minimalist pasta recipe, made with just 4 ingredients and done in under 10 minutes, yet I thought about it for the next 11 ½ months. And of course, it was no longer on the menu, so I couldn’t even go back for it. How could I possibly recreate it at home? How had they done it? There was no way to find out. I was stuck.
Then last week I remembered: THE INTERNET! Yes, the internet. Forgot about that thing. And what do you know, just one Google away, Aaron Silverman shared the recipe on Garden & Gun’s website. So, yeah. All my pining was for naught.
I made this recipe for dinner last week and moaned euphorically with every bite because ohmygod it is so good. So so good. And I could finally have it at home, anytime I wanted. Life was good. I was untouchable.
Then Jarrett asked me where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner. I thought about it for three-quarters of a second before demanding more Rose’s, please. I knew they didn’t have the cacio e pepe on the menu anymore, but it’s still my favorite place in town. (And hey, Obama picked it for his birthday dinner, too.)
So there we are, two nights ago, sitting at the chef’s counter at Rose’s so we can watch the action. Everything is going swimmingly, and we are punchdrunk on their famous Pork Sausage with Coconut-Chile Sauce and Lychees. A waiter slowly approaches us, holding a small floral vintage plate. He sets it down in front of us. It’s the cacio e pepe. It’s a complimentary treat. I laugh; I weep; I fall over dead from sheer joy.
Things I am told I said to Jarrett in my delirium:
“This is the best day of my entire life.”
“It’s so good I could cry. I may cry.”
“Stop eating that. It’s mine.”
So what is the moral of this story, you ask? It’s that simple food is the happiest food. And the magic of feeding people is that it can bring a grown woman to near-happy-tears on her birthday.
Cacio e Pepe Pasta from Rose’s Luxury
What to pull from your cabinets:
What you need:
1 package spaghetti*
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 ounces parmigiano reggiano**
20 ounces pecorino romano
Freshly ground pepper (You want a coarse grind, not a powder.)
What to do:
Set your pot of water to boil over high heat. While it heats up, you can start grating your cheeses. (I grate them over a paper towel, since that makes it easy to pick up the whole thing. And I hate using extra dishes.)
When the water is boiling, add at least 2 tablespoons of salt to the pot and drop your spaghetti. As the spaghetti cooks, gently melt the butter in your largest skillet over low heat and begin grating pepper into it. You will need a LOT of pepper, so this will get you ahead.
Cook the spaghetti for two minutes less than the package indicates. Drain and reserve 1 ¼ cup of the starchy pasta water.
Add the pasta water and pasta to the large skillet over low heat, toss gently with tongs, and season to taste with salt. Keep adding more pepper—every strand of spaghetti should have many flecks of pepper on it. Cook for a minute or two, until emulsified, then stir in both cheeses and serve immediately on warmed plates.
*Note on the spaghetti: Get the good stuff. This dish is so simple that every ingredient needs to be of excellent quality, but honestly, I think it’s almost always worth it to get a higher quality packaged pasta. It’s easy to find at most grocery stores; it’s usually just a dollar or two more than the flat, boring stuff; and it yields an unbelieveably enjoyable al dente bite when cooked properly. You want a pasta made according to the traditional Italian methods: extruded through bronze dyes (it should have a rough texture) and slow dried to maintain flavor and bite. If you upgrade one ingredient in your kitchen, make it this. (Oh, and your parm. See below.)
**Note on the parmesan: Don’t use that stuff from a green can. I hate to be that person, but it just won’t get great results in this recipe. You want a true parmigiano reggiano that you can grate fresh into the pasta. (Even the pregrated stuff has lost flavor.) Same with the pecorino.
Here are the 5 stories worth reading this week:
Alton Brown Reviews Amazon’s Dumbest Kitchen Gadgets (Alton Brown on The Daily Dot): This is hilarious. Worth a watch if you have too many kitchen gadgets (I am so guilty of this…), or just like to watch the genius that is Alton Brown.
The Persistence of Email Marketing for Book Publishers (Jim Hanas on Publishing Perspectives): Jim Hanas of HarperCollins on why email marketing is king. “Call me an old cynic, but sometimes it seems like the entire internet is conspiring to a) get me to read My Struggle and b) to distract marketers from a simple, demonstrable fact: Email marketing is (or can be, properly pursued) the cheapest, most effective, measurable way to sell just about anything, including (and perhaps especially) books.”
6 Email Marketing Myths Debunked (Sam Missingham and Jim Hanas on Publishing Perspectives): As a tie-in to the previous article, here are two HarperCollins execs talking about the misconceptions that surround email marketing: “In our experience, social media drives conversation, raises awareness of books and authors, and builds credibility. These are all powerful and valuable for you and your business, but email converts people to buyers.” Plus this clever little tip: “Spending energy finding interesting ways to drive your social audience into your newsletter list is time well spent. (Super simple tip: Use your sign up URL, not your home page, in your social profiles.)”
The Secret to My Productivity, Or: Thoughts About Luxury and Privilege (Jane Friedman): “I often see celebrations of writers who take a stand and say, ‘I’m not marketing and promoting myself (or my book)’ or ‘I’m not going to use social media.’ I generally see two reasons for the celebration: Such things are seen as less important activities that steal time away from writing, and need to be minimized as the distractions that they can be. But also, they’re seen as activities not befitting the serious writer, who should be only writing and not building a ‘platform’ or ‘brand.’ Such activity diminishes the art, it diminishes the writer, the thinking goes. And so we celebrate when someone is courageous or stubborn or independent enough to flout the commandment to ‘engage’ with a readership. (It’s a horrible commandment, I know. The language surrounding anything marketing related can be hard to take and full of meaningless platitudes.) But the decision not to engage at all? To be offline or off the grid and focus on writing to the exclusion of all else? That is a luxury that most new or emerging writers don’t have.”
The 43 Best Websites to Learn Something New About Marketing (Ash Read on the Buffer blog): Start here if you want to make 2016 the year you learn more about how to get your work out into the world.
Happy reading and pasta-eating!